Do those “John 3:16” signs at sporting events make you want to seek God? Do street-corner pastors make you want to embrace the church? Even when I was a believer, that type of showmanship made me cringe. Instead of bringing people closer, I think those types of display force people away.
The same is true when someone prays for you without your permission.
A touch of background: As many of you know, I had a mental breakdown in April 2012. At that time, I entered an intense inpatient rehab center in Chicago. I went into that center believing in God. I left that place no longer embracing the faith. I have a new view of the Creator and I hold a lot of animosity towards “the church”. Me and church no longer mix.
My parents, however, have stayed faithful. They quit going to their church only because it was too difficult physically. That was five years ago. In that time, as far as I’m aware, the pastor has not visited. My mother has been hospitalized numerous times and the pastor did not visit. With one exception, none of the ladies group bothered to keep in contact.That one exception, Barbara, has been faithful to my mom. However, being around her makes me very uncomfortable – she represents ‘the church’ to me. Whenever I’m around her I’m tense and judgmental. She knows this – it’s clear in my body language, the tone of my voice.
After my mother broke her hip and we were in the last days, I answered the phone when Barbara called. As expected, she asked how my mom was. She expressed her desire to come visit. Then, she said, “Let me pray for you.”
So far, so good. Well, sort of. She did not give me a choice. She did not give me a chance to tell her I’d rather she didn’t. She said, “Let me pray for you.” Without a breath, she started to pray.
You see, right or wrong, I do believe in A GOD but also believe that either He/She/It doesn’t care about me or He/She/It likes to toy with me and see how much it takes to break me. THEREFORE, I WORK VERY HARD TO AVOID GAINING HIS/HER/ITS ATTENTION. This prayer sent me into fear and paranoia.
Have you ever lay in bed at night and thought “I wish I’d said …”? When this person began to pray, my emotional mind went haywire. Anger. Embarrassment (for me and her), shock, disapproval and bitterness warred for control. My rational mind was shoved out. Rather than politely (or not politely) stopping her, I was paralyzed. Even after she said amen, my tongue was glued to the roof of my mouth.
I wish I’d said:
If you want to pray for me or us, please do so. But I don’t need to be a part of the experience. OR
Please feel free to pray for my parents. But I ask that you leave me out of the Godiverse’s presence. OR
Listen, lady, don’t shove your beliefs down my throat. OR
I could have just hung up. (this would have embarrassed my parents – it’s not a good option) OR
I could have explained the truth of my experience with ‘the church’. I could have told her how my Christian friends left me high and dry. How the church never contacted me or my husband while I was away for those weeks. How the youth pastor never reached out to my daughter. I could have educated her on how the church lets people down, shoves them off the pews and out the door.
I’m lucky to have some new Christian friends. These people do not expect me to follow them to church. I imagine they pray for me. But what they never do is force me to pray. If they did, they would no longer be in my life. Instead of shoving their beliefs in my face, they quietly prove their love and acceptance. I told these ladies of my experience and each agreed this person was out of line.
I know some of you are faithful Christians. That’s wonderful – wonderful FOR YOU. If you want to pray for me (or anyone), then do so. I don’t need to be there for you to bow your head. BUT DO NOT FORCE ME INTO YOUR BELIEF SYSTEM. I won’t force mine on you either.
The day my mother died, guess who called? The pastor! Wow! What was I supposed to say to him? He asked if we were doing a memorial service. No. He asked if we were doing a graveside service. No. I told him that my mother requested we have a family poker game. As tacky as it sounds, I got a great laugh picturing his face.
But you know what, he should have known my mother’s wishes. He should have known because he should have visited her and talked to her and helped her through all this. Hell, he should have prayed with her – she would have appreciated it.
In April 2012 I had a mental breakdown. The real thing. I have about 36 hours that I don’t remember....